Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 36: The Prime Minister Prime Ministering

Previously, a ghostly rebellion.

Her Imperial Majesty, the Empress of India, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Egypt and Lots-of-Other-Places, Queen Victoria’s face was serene, and at peace. She sat in her very large queen chair, her throne if you will. She sat in the Queen’s Audience Chamber in one of her many long black mourning dresses with their white lace, her white hair done up in a large bun the way she liked. Across her lap lay the edge of a large fabric the size of the Bayeux. It was one the queen had been knitting since the first anniversary of her husband Albert’s death. It contained many scenes from his life.

At the center of the fabric was a portrait of a handsome vigorous Albert. Scenes from his life circled that portrait, scenes of Albert hunting, Albert teaching, Albert riding, Albert freeing slaves, Albert advising his queen and his wife in manners of state, Albert being as handsome as Albert could be. The section she was working on this day was Prince Albert and the Great Exhibition of 1851. Just looking at her soul mate, though only a portrait and not the real thing, still gave her goosebumplings.

The look on Her Majesty’s face was one of reliving those days some thirty-odd years earlier. Of late, she had been working very hard to finish the fabric that had required most of her life since. She wanted it completed before her death, and she had come to realize she did not have that many more years to spare.

The queen looked up at the door of her Audience Chamber. The Prime Minster stood waiting for her to recognize his presence.

“Prime Minister, why do you disturb us in our time of respite? We thought we were quite clear. We do not wish to see the Prime Minister again. You can confer with our Personal Adjutant if you desire to convey a matter to Her Majesty.”

“Yes, Your Majesty. I understand. But your Personal Adjutant thought this should be a matter for Her Majesty’s ears. I have news of the gravest of matters. It is a matter that only Your Majesty can address. No one else.” The Prime Minister was making every effort to salve the queen’s ego and hoping his strategy worked.

“Dear Bertie is dead, and you have news. What news can be more disturbing than the death of our beloved husband?”

“None, Your Majesty, none. The thing is that I have good news and bad news.”

“Good news? Yes, we could use some good news. Autumn is always in need of good news. What is your good news, Prime Minister.”

“Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott of Haggismarshe is alive.”

“That is not what The Times has reported. And you must know that The Times never reports anything falsely. If The Times reports it, it is not fake news. It must be true.”

“I agree,” the Prime Minister said. “May I approach Your Majesty’s Person and relay the full details?”

“Well, if you must, you must,” the queen said impatiently. This was nothing new. She was always impatient with prime ministers. They were the bane of her existence, the sore tooth she never seemed able to pull. All but one that is. His name was Benjamin Disraeli. The worst of the bunch had been Gladstone.

This Argyle Mactavish was no better or worse than the rest of the lot. So, she supposed she could be patient. But he had better hurry. She had more important things to do, like knitting. And oh, she must do some gardening and possibly some riding. Yes, riding with the memory of John Brown at her side was always an enjoyable experience for the elderly queen, none more enjoyable. “But please do not push my patience. I have the work of state to do as you must know.” Her head pointed toward the fabric on her lap.
The Prime Minister stepped over to her side, careful not to step on the large fabric spread out on the floor in front of her person.

“I too thought the news of her ladyship was wrong. That I was being given hopeful news that would later turn into nothing but a rumor. But I have an eyewitness. One in our service in Spain.”

“What does Spain and those Spaniards have to do with Lady Marye Caterina?” Her Majesty wanted to know. Her curiosity was beginning to arise. She had started to listen to the Prime Minister’s news. She continued her knitting but her knitting had slowed to a snail’s pace.

The Prime Minister took a position, sitting down on the carpet beside his queen’s chair. “Your Majesty, it seems that when the S. S. Twit went down, her ladyship somehow escaped. Our investigations have revealed that she is a very good swimmer. A very good swimmer indeed. She was able to swim to the coast of Spain, just south of Barcelona. Evidently, she wandered into the district of Sant Monjuic. There she was taken in by a priest. She is resting comfortably in a convent. But my understanding is that she has amnesia, Your Majesty.”

“Amnesia?” The queen’s interest was indeed perked up. “Is she in good health? We do hope she is in good health.”

“She is. But, Your Majesty, her life is in great danger. From two sources.”

“No, Prime Minister, tell me it isn’t so. The death of Little Nell and now this. I don’t think my heart can take it.”

“But it is, Your Majesty. I am afraid it is. The church and the convent she is staying at is the headquarters of the Wah Wah League. There are those in our government who want to take her out. Otherwise she will become a bargaining chip for that dastardly piece of barbarism that the League is.”

“Can you save her ladyship. Oh, I do hope so.”

“We do have a plan.”

“Oh, goody two shoes.”

“There is a second problem,” the Prime Minister continued. “It is The Times. Even if we save her, The Times will deny her existence and try to make her disappear. They cannot allow their reputation to be burnished that way. They have infiltrated my government at every level and are out to destroy any effort I might make to save her ladyship. And Lords is back at its old tricks, trying to take her title and her lands should she return. Of course, when it comes to Lords, there is hope.”

“Hope, Prime Minister?” Her Majesty asked. What hope could there be? For years, the queen had allowed Lords to run the show. Until now, they had never asserted their power over the queen’s desire. The queen had sent down messages to the Lords that she was interested in the welfare of Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott of Haggismarshe. American-born or not, her ladyship was still one of her subjects. And she, the queen, was the Mother of All Her People. How dare Lords challenge her prerogative. They would regret this.

“Westminster is surrounded by the Gathering of Ghosts. The lords of Lords can neither leave nor enter. They are trapped, and they don’t have a quorum to do their business. All sorts of mischief has broken out down there. The ghosts throughout the realm have gathered in favor of her ladyship. But you know how stubborn Lords can be. Ghosts or no ghosts, they will not give in easily.”

“So, what do you intend to do?”

“I need your help, Your Majesty.”

“How can a weak old woman such as ourself help?” Her Imperial Highness desired to know.

“You can dissolve Commons and call for new elections.”

“But it isn’t done, Prime Minister. You know that. The House of Commons would be wailing about interference from the throne. You know yourself that Commons is very protective of its prerogatives.”

“I do indeed, Your Majesty,” the Prime Minister interjected. “I do indeed. But, when Your Majesty acts in concert with my government, it will not be thought of as interference. It will be thought of as support against the overthrow of Commons by the Lords. Lords plans to install its own government with Sir Myles di Fussye-Pants at its head. Thank God, I have Sir Myles at my side. Lords thought they had him in the palm of their hands. After all, he comes from one of the oldest families in the realm. But he is a very independent thinker. Nothing could gladden him more than the defeat of this plan of Lords.”

“Why does Sir Myles support you, Prime Minister?” the queen wanted to know.

“He finds all this conspiracy against her ladyship distasteful. As you know, he has an American wife, the former EmmiliaLouise Muddytenstein-in-the-Alps. And he is allied with a number of aristocracy with foreign wives. If Lords pulls this off, that will be the end of aristocratic marriages to wealth. No wealthy American worth her salt will marry an English aristocrat without access to his title. Sir Myles will be supporting the new elections.”

“I certainly don’t understand why Lords has gone down this suicidal path,” the queen commented.

“It does seem like suicide, Your Majesty. That is for sure. But they are doing it in the name of Tradition. They don’t want to see the country sold off to foreigners.”

“I see, Prime Minister. I do see. Yes, you have our support. I will have the Lord Chamberlain draw up the papers immediately.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty,” the Prime Minister said.

“No, Prime Minister,” the queen said. “Thank you.”

Then Her Imperial Majesty, the Empress of India, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Egypt and Lots-of-Other-Places, Queen Victoria did something extraordinary. She stood up. She never stood up for a prime minister. With one exception, of course. That exception being Benjamin Disraeli whom she loved as she loved one of her children. The queen stood up for Argyle Mactavish. She gave him her hand to kiss. He kissed it and rose at her insistence.

“Now, Your Majesty, I must return to Number 10. I have some firings that are in order.” He bowed and backed out of the Audience Chamber.

Next Week, the Prime Minister does his thing.

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Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 35: Running Amuckski

Previously, Quills Takes Charge

The ghost, B. P. Nutt, lay in the hammock behind the Haggismarche Manor house. It was such a lovely autumn day, the kind of day that you think heaven must be made of. The morning was a bit misty as autumn mornings tend to be. But the mist had cleared away and the afternoon sun was a nice toasty warm wiping away the chill that came with this sort of season. The ghost swung the hammock easily back and forth to the rhythm of “Get along little dogies”, his favorite song.

Elsewhere in the world, the times on the Thames was the kind that made for a jolly good swim, the weather being what it was. America had sent over a new ambassador and he had presented his affectations at the Court of St. James. The Queen’s race horse, Tallyho, had tallyhoed his way to winning at Ascot.

Jack the Rapper was rapping about the streets of London at night, and he had all the prostitutes scared out of their pantaloons. Though they were often out of their pantaloons, this was different. That was for business, this new threat seemed downright scary. If a whore couldn’t trust a client, who could she trust? Certainly not the police.

It was an age of technological advancement. The world had been introduced to new and newer inventions at unbelievable speed. Henry Augustus Glump became world famous and extremely rich after his invention of the very popular backwards unicycle. It was a conservative invention. Instead of moving forward, folks were returning to the scene of the crime. Those bikes were taking them back to the Crimean War and the charge of the Light Brigade. Pretty soon they would be back at Waterloo and that would be their waterloo.

Sir John Crapper kept waking up to the sound of his wife rushing to the outhouse, singing, “Got to go. Got to go. Got to go.” So, it was the indoor toilet for her and nothing less. Phineas Fogg, upon returning from his eighty days around the world, won the International Tournament of Whist. His prize, a trip around the world. What could be more appropriate?

The world was doing what it normally does. Getting on with itself and letting everything else get on with itself too. And B. P. was a happy ghost. His howling howdies had been flipped on their butts and came out with a smile and a jest. Ever since he returned from the Spirit World, he had been in a right-good, jolly good mood. Nothing but nothing could break down his wall of merriment. He was having a good time and he wanted everybody at Haggismarshe Manor House to know it. He floated out of his hammock and did himself a jig.

“What are you doing there, you fool of a ghost?” Butler said.

“I’m doing a Texas broad jump,” the ghost said, feeling the breeze sneak under his sheetlike exterior. It tickled but it felt pretty darn good. “What does it look like, you fool of a butler? “

“It looks like you are head over heels in love with your own ectoplasm,” Butler said.

“Why don’t you go,” B. P. said, stopping his hammock from swinging, “and butle something and leave a ghost in peace?”

“Have you no brains?” Butler asked, standing there glaring through the apparition. Why was it always his job to clear things up?

“No brains here. After all, I am a ghost. Or didn’t you know?”

“I know. That’s why I am here.”

B. P. stopped his dancing and floated over to Butler. “Okay then. I give up. Why are you here?”

“Even though her ladyship is still alive, that doesn’t mean she will remain alive.”

“Oh,” B. P. said. “She’s in good hands. Giles, our Times man, says she’s safe in Spain. Has a bit of the amnesias. But otherwise she’s safe and sound. Staying in a convent. So relax.”

“Haven’t you realized,” Butler said, ‘that her ladyship may not have her position and lands when she returns to England. Lords, you know.”

Now he was curious. “What are y’all trying to imply?”

“The House of Lords has been on a rampage to take her title and lands away from her since Lord Wimpleseed Prissypott’s death. Once they find out that she is alive they will be after them again. We have to come up with a strategy to save her ladyship.”

“Pardner, you are absolutely, I mean absolutely right,” B. P. said, getting excited. “Wait here and I will get Earl Grey and Sir Long John Longjohn.”

B. P. was off, flying hither and thither and yonder until he came across Earl Grey in the Master Bedroom. He rustled up Sir Long John Longjohn out of the kitchen pantry. He was having a snack. The three headed back to the hammock. Butler was waiting.

“What’s so urgent?” Earl Grey yawned. “I was hibernating right nicely.”

“I was about to have an Earl of Sandwich,” Sir Long John said.

“Y’all, we have a problem,” B. P. said.

“Just because her ladyship,” Butler said, “is alive doesn’t mean we’re out of hot water. We may lose her still.”

“How can that be?” both Earl Grey and Sir Long John said in unison.

“The House of Lords may vote it so,” Butler said.

“Oh, yes, Lords,” Earl Grey said.

“I forgot about Lords,” Sir Long John said. “Oh, what oh what can we do?”

“I’ve an idea,” Earl Grey said. “It’s not been done for centuries. The last time was against the Armada and the Spanish. But we might be able to pull it off.”

“How so?” Butler said.

“You’re right,” Sir Long John said. “It might work.”

“What might work?” B. P. said.

“A Gathering of the Ghosts,” Earl Grey said.

“What the—“ B. P. went to ask.

“My exact sentiment,” Butler said.

“It works like this,” Earl Grey said. “We call a Convocation of Ghosts at the House of Lords. Ghosts from all over the British Isles will converge on Lords. We’ll surround Lords and won’t let the lords out until the situation with her ladyship is resolved. We’ll squeeze them until they pop. And pop they surely shall.”

“But we can’t leave the manor house,” B. P. said. “It’s hard enough for one of us to get permission. You are talking about all the ghosts in England.”

“And Scotland and Wales,” Earl Grey said. “You’ve done this before, Sir Long John. How shall we proceed?”

“We have to have a very urgent need,” Sir Long John said, “one of national import.”

“This is of national import,” Butler said. “If Lords can take her ladyship’s lands and title away, then no one is safe. No American girl will marry a English lord ever again. There won’t be the guarantee of a title. This movement is led by all those wives of lords who are British. They don’t care for the American incursion. The large estates will eventually be split up and die without the wealth these American women have to offer.”

“That’s national and emergency enough, boys,” B. P. threw his two cents in. “Don’t you think?”

“I say,” Earl Grey said. “I believe it is. Then we call a Gathering of Ghosts.”

“First we have to get permission,” Sir Long John said, “from the Riders of the Sky to approach the Spirits Council. Earl Grey, you were a solicitor. You prepare a brief, and make your brief brief. Please don’t be the windbag you are in these cases. If the Spirits Council agrees, there will be a Gathering of Ghosts, and Lords will never be the same. But we don’t have much time. I have one question for ye lads?”

“Yes?,” B. P., Butler, Earl Grey asked.

“Can I wear my kilts, mon?” Sir Long John asked.

“I would say kilts would be quite in order,” Earl Grey said.

“And I can get out my new stetson and my justins. It will be the biggest howdy old England has ever seen. I say we go for it.”

Earl Grey wrote the brief. The Riders in the Sky agreed that the three ghosts from Haggismarshe might have a relevant case for the Spirits Council. The Spirits Council listened in awe at what was being proposed. It had never been done in peace time. But dire times call for dire resourcefulnesses. The Spirit Council agreed. They unlocked the walls of all the haunted houses and castles throughout the British Isles. The ghosts flooded into the surrounding countryside as the rain poured down. It was a dark and stormy midnight.

From Dublin and the County Cork, from Ulster and Shannon, the ghosts left their abodes and trod. From the Highlands and the Lowlands, the ghosts proceded. From Dundee and Aberdeen, they trod. From Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester, they came. From Portsmouth and Plymouth and Cardiff, they walked. From Clwyd, Gwynnedd and Dyfed, they trooped.

They marched across the sea, They marched through forests and cities. They marched through the rain and the fog. They marched, and all of England knew there was something astir. Their trek led them through Hammersmith, Paddington and Kensington and onward, splashing their way to Westminster and the House of Lords. When they arrived at the Lords, they spread out in two directions, making a circle around the Palace. When the circle was completed, they began their howl.

“What is going on outside?” Baron Duffield asked his good friend, Sir Quinton Nobody, the Lord Mayor of London. Of course, the Lord Mayor did not have a clue. He couldn’t even guess. But the sound was very unpleasant.

“I say,” Sir Quinton said, “perhaps one of us should go outside and find out.”

“Whatever it is, it is downright scary,” the Baron said. “At least the rain has stopped. Thought we were going to need Noah and his ark.”

“You’d think somebody was on the warpath or something or the other.”

“I volunteer you, Quinton, old chap,” Duffield said. “to go find out. After all, it is your city. You are supposed to be keeping the plebeians in check. And when you check, keep your stiff upper lip. We would not want whatever it is to think that we were intimidated. We are not.”

Quinton walked slowly to the door and out into the great hallway and to the front of Westminster Palace, the home of kings of old. He came to the front door and turned to the doorman. “What is going on outside?”

“Ghosts, sir,” the doorman chattered. “Ghosts.”

“There’s no such thing as ghosts. I refuse to even fathom such a thing. It is unscientific.”

“Unscientific or not,” the doorman said, “there are ghosts out there. They are running amuck. We are unable to go in or out, sir.”

Next Week, Prime Minister informs the Queen.

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 34: The Chase

Previously the Convent was not all that it seemed.

It all began as a ruse, a way for Quills to escape his father. Unfortunately, he had not thought it through. His father was right. He was a impetuous fellow but he came by it rightly. His mother had been impetuous. However, jumping off the Rock of Gibraltar might have been a little too impetuous. On the Spanish beach he considered that his impetuosity might have been a little to impetuous as he stared at the end of this bandolero’s pistolla.

But the highwayman seemed to like him. After all, both of them were under the Curse of the Second Son. No inheritance for either of them. It was finding the first available heiress and living off their income. Both had said, “No, thank you.” Now this highwayman was offering Quills a way out. Although it was an illegal way out. The thing is that Quills had decided he would do anything to escape the fate his father had in store for him. Even highway robbery.

By the time they arrived at The Aragon & The Castille, Quilip “Quills” David Armistead Loopsey and Hector Umberto Alacia had enough money for both to retire. And they had become fast friends, Hector seeing Quills ability with a gun several times.

Quills and Hector sat in their corner, drinking their Andalusian sherry and telling each other of the adventures they had and the adventures they were going to have. In walked this dandy. He insulted the innkeeper’s hospitality several times. They both smiled at the man and saluted him. He did not salute back. How dare he?

Hector walked over to the dandy’s table. The dandy insulted Hector. Since the innkeeper was a good friend, he held his anger and bided his time. Hector and Quills finished their drinks and went to the stable. They saddled their horses and rode off into the darkness.

The next morning Señor Dandy tried to shortchange the innkeeper. As the dandy drove away in his carriage, the innkeeper spat in his direction. Immediately Hector and Quills rode up beside the innkeeper, saluted him and rode after the carriage. The carriage did not go south or north to one of the main highways. It went east on one of the backroads.

At first, Hector and Quills thought they would stop him and rob him. But, they decided, on second thought, to find out where fancy-dancy was going. There was plenty of time for robbery. Maybe they could give him an even greater lesson.

They followed him east on the Old Road through Mancha, Baeza, Ubeda, and Torreperogill. When the carriage came to Beas de Segura, it changed directions again. The carriage made the long journey and came to the mountains and headed east.

Hector decided that he had enough. Before they knew it, the dandy would be in Barcelona and he might have many friends there. It was late at night. The highwaymen’s horses were tired, and now was the time.

Hector kicked his horse and the horse made for the carriage. Before Hector could pass the carriage, the dandy pulled open the curtain of the window of the carriage, aimed a revolver at Hector and fired. Quills, aways behind Hector, watched his friend pass the carriage and its horses and turn his horse around in front of the carriage.

“Halt, Señor Driver,” he yelled.

The driver pulled his horses to a stop, then threw himself down on the ground, taking his rifle with him. From the carriage came three shots. Hector jumped from his horse. Quills was almost up to the carriage when he started firing. The dandy stopped firing.

“Señors, I surrender,” the dandy called out from the carriage. “I have had enough.” He threw his revolver out of the carriage.

Hector, the driver and Quills stopped firing. The dandy stepped out of the carriage. Quills jumped off his horse. Keeping his eye on the dandy, Quills walked around him and joined Hector. Hector motioned for the driver to leave his rifle on the ground and stand up.

“Take my gold,” the dandy said. “You’ve earned it. Then leave us in peace.”

“Señor,” Hector said, “you do not deserve peace. You are a man who insults freely. First you insult my friend, the innkeeper, then you insult my friend here. And if that was not enough, you insult me. No one insults Hector Umberto Alacia.”

“Hector,” Quills said surprised that Hector had told the dandy his name. “Now he knows your name.”

“I want him to know who killed him,” Hector said. “So, he can give the Devil a greeting from Hector Umberto Alacia.”

Hector walked over to the dandy. Quills pushed the driver against the carriage, turned him around and tied his hands behind him. Then he backed away and turned to see Hector standing close to the dandy, his pistolla at the man’s throat.

“Señor, you are through insulting your betters.” Hector pushed the gun further into the man’s throat. “I want to see you drop to your knees and beg.’

The man walked backwards, trying to escape the barrel of Hector’s gun. The dandy backed against the carriage. Then it happened. The dandy dropped to his knees. As he did, he grabbed Hector by the cojones. Hector screamed and dropped his pistolla. Before Quills could act, the dandy pulled a knife from his shoe, slammed it into Hector’s foot. He grabbed the gun of the ground, pointed it at Hector’s head and fired. Hector fell to the ground.

Quills fired at the dandy, and the dandy shot back. Quills fired several times but missed the dandy. The dandy ran toward Hector’s horse. As he did, he shot his driver. Quills went to fire his gun but it didn’t fire. He was out of bullets. He dropped behind the rock. The dandy sprang onto the back of Hector’s horse and rode into the night.

Quills rose from behind the rock The Englishman grabbed his canteen off his saddle and brought it over to Hector. He kneeled by his friend’s side, tears in his eyes. He gave his friend a drink from the canteen. Tears rolled down his face.

“Do not cry,” Hector said, breathing heavily. “It is my time to go. If I had a son, mi amigo, it would be you. We have had our times, and they were good times. And remember how I died bravely, doing what I love.”

“Si, mi amigo.” Quills was sobbing. His friend was dying, and he was the only real friend Quills had ever had, the only real family.

“The only thing I ask,” Hector said, breathing heavier and heavier, “The one thing you must do for me. Promise me.”

“I will,” Quills said between his sobs.

“You must kill that son of a bitch. Make him suffer. He is evil. Do you promise me this?”

“Yes, I promise,” Quills said.

His friend took another drink from the canteen, swallowed hard, and died, a smile on his face.

Quills stood up. He walked over to the driver. He had fallen against the carriage and died, a bullet smashed through his head. He then walked over to his horse. He pulled it to the carriage and tethered it to one of the wheels. He unsaddled the horse, pulled off the blanket and made himself a place to sleep on the ground.

Then he searched through the boot of the carriage and found a shovel. He saw a large tree and imagined that Hector would like to have his last resting place under that tree. He began his digging. And soon he had two holes, first one for Hector, then a second for the driver. He buried both men side by side. He stood by their graves and said a few words.

He returned to his blanket and went to sleep. It was a restless sleep, one moment he dreamed of his friend, his laughter, his good humor, his comradery. The next he was dreaming of the dandy and his insults.

Quills woke as dawn was filling the sky with its morning light. He jumped up and rolled up his blanket and threw it next to his saddle. He went to his saddle and pulled out some food. He opened a can of beans and ate them cold. Then he saddled up and pulled his body onto his black mare. He rode over to Hector’s grave and said a final farewell and began the ride east after the dandy.

Quills knew that the dandy couldn’t have gotten far ahead. Hector’s horse needed to rest. His mare was fresh after a night’s rest and would easily catch the dandy, whoever he was. He rode his horse hard over miles and miles of empty road, not another human in sight. Occasionally when he came across another person, he would stop and ask them if they had seen a dandy on a black stallion.

“Si,” came the answer. “He is only a few hours ahead of you. He is driving that horse of his hard. It is as if he had the devil on his tail.”

“He does,” Quills said, then rode on, harder and harder. But it did not seem to make any difference. Once he thought he had the dandy in sight only to find out it was another rider and not his enemy. On he rode east until he his horse could make it no further. He stopped at the inn in Molina de Segura. He sold the mare and bought himself a new ride.

Then he realized that he was in no shape to go on. So it was a meal and a bed for a short night’s rest. Before sunrise, he was on the horse and onward. When he came to Murcia, he turned north. Ever so often he would stop and ask about the dandy. Those he asked had seen him. They labeled him a cheat and a thief.  And rude, always insulting someone with his behavior.

“Yes, that is the man I am after,” Quills would say.

“Bless you, my son,” one innkeeper said to him and charged him nothing for his meal. As the innkeeper bade him farewell, he asked Quills, “Why do you seek this man?”

“He murdered my friend,” Quills said.

“I and my family will pray that you find him,” the innkeeper said.

Quills rode with the man’s good wishes at his back, the wind that he needed to push him forward. Through Valencia and Terragona he rode on. As he reached Barcelona, he glimpsed the dandy at a distance. It was sunset.

Quills slowed his pace, keeping up with the dandy and his horse. He watched the dandy enter a cobblestone street. Quills stopped and got off his horse. He tied the horse to a rail and followed on foot.

Quills was only a couple of yards behind the dandy when his enemy stopped in front of a church and got off his horse. He walked around to the other side of the church. Quills drew his pistolla and followed. The man entered the convent. Quills followed him inside. The stairs squeaked as the man climbed to the third floor. Quills took off his shoes and noiselessly followed.

At the top of the stairs, he heard the dandy say, “Where would you believe you are going, your ladyship.”

Next Week, There’s an outbreak of Revolution-itis. Can it be stopped?

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 33: The mystery gets even more mysterious.

Previously, a conspiracy is discovered.

Something woke her. The former Mary-Mary Smith, now the Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott, lay in her bed in the convent and looked out through her window. It was a dark, moonless night. She heard voices mumbling below in the courtyard between the convent and the church. Pulling herself out of bed, she stumbled over to close the curtains to the window. Maybe that would help keep out the mumbles.

She looked down and saw shadows, splotches of darkness against the lighter darkness of the courtyard. There seemed to be an argument going on.

“Shhhhh,” one of the shadows said. “You’ll wake everybody in the convent. If that’s your intention, you’re going to accomplish it.” It was Father Jerome’s voice. What was Father Jerome doing up at this hour? He usually was early to bed, early to rise. He had a seven o’clock morning mass.

Her ladyship was fully awake now. She felt like going down and telling the damned voices to shut up. Oops, she used the word “damned.” She shouldn’t-oughtn’t-a do that. She was in a convent and nuns didn’t curse.

Below Mother Sarah said, “Will you two shut your damned mouths.” Did the Abbess say “damned”? She did. How dare her? God was going to get her for that? “It’s late. Let’s go up to my office. And be quiet doing it.”

“Yes, ma’am,” both the priest and a woman agreed.

Her ladyship, our heroine, stepped back from the window. That woman’s voice was familiar. Who was she? She listened and heard the back door of the convent open and close. Then a soft padding on the steps of the old wooden stairs as they passed the second floor and went onto the third. She heard the door of the Mother Superior’s office close.

Mary-Mary lay back down on the bed and slid the covers over her body. A little while later, she realized that she could not sleep. Why were the three meeting this late? It seemed so mysterious, so unlike the abbess and the priest she had gotten to know over the past week or so. She threw the covers off her body, rose out of bed and slipped a robe over her nightdress.

She opened the door quietly. Although the doors could be noisy opening and closing, this night hers was unusually quiet. It was as if the door was cooperating with her finding out what was going on upstairs. She laid her feet down softly one in front of the other as she moved slowly down the hall. She did not want to disturb the nuns from their sleep, although there was only a slight chance of that. The clapper would wake the nuns at five in the morning for their prayers.

So, the nuns usually slept soundly. Mary-Mary could hear the loud snoring of Sister Bethany as she passed her door.

Soon she was at the stairs and she started up them. All of a sudden, she stopped. She felt faint, and sat down. Was there something wrong with her? Sitting on the stairwell for the next few minutes, she recovered her energy.

A noise came from below. It was the opening and closing of the convent door. She hurried back downstairs to the second floor. She stepped inside the hallway and put her body against one of the nun’s closed doors. Her back hugged it closely. A dark figure stopped on the stairwell. She hugged the door closer. The figure looked down the hallway, then began its climb up to the third floor. The footsteps of the figure padded down the third-floor hallway to the Mother Superior’s office at the end. The office door opened, then closed.

Mary-Mary hurried up the stairs, her curiosity overwhelming her. She came to the third floor and stepped into the hallway. Quietly, very quietly, she tiptoed toward the Mother Superior’s Office. She came to its door. She stopped and put her head to the wooden door to listen. She heard voices on the inside.

At first, she couldn’t tell what they were saying. But soon she began to make out words.

“No,” Mother Superior said.

“We … to,” Father Jerome’s voice came to her.

“Look … no choice,” a man’s voice came through the door.

“That’s right,” another voice, a woman’s, came through the door. Why did that voice and its accent sound so familiar?

“But this is what the Reverend Henry wanted,” Mother Superior said.

“It’s exactly what he wanted,” the woman’s muffled voice said. “So, tell me about this woman you have here. You say she came from ze shipwreck. How fortunate for us.”

“It’s true,” Father Jerome’s voice came through the door clearly.

“I believe,” Mother Superior said, “that it is the Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypot of Haggismarshe.”

“But ze papers say that she is all dead,” the familiar woman’s voice said. ‘And ze papers are seldom wrong.”

“At first we couldn’t believe our good fortune,” Father Jerome said. “Then we looked at her picture, and yes, it is her. She is not dead. We have her here.”

“Doesn’t she know who she is?” the familiar woman’s voice wanted to know.

“No,” the man’s voice said. “She has amnesia and I have been keeping her in that state. I’ve been given her a drug.” It was her doctor’s voice, Doctor Qwackers.

Are they talking about me? Yes, they are talking about me. But why are they drugging me? What did I do, and why are they keeping me here? Am I this Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott person? The questions moved around and around in her head. Suddenly she was feeling faint again. She had better get back to her bed to figure all this out. Then she would know what to do.

It was obvious she couldn’t continue to take the doctor’s medicine. She had to get out of the convent and soon. But how? She did not know anyone in the city. Perhaps one of the nuns would help her out. But none of the nuns would go against their Mother Superior. Oh, what was she going to do?

She tippy toed back toward the stairs, passing the office doors that occupied the third floor. She came to the stairwell. From behind her stepped a dark figure of a man.

“Where would you believe you are going, your ladyship,” the dark shadow of a man said.

Next Week: To highwayman or not to highwayman

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 32: The Conspiracy to End All Conspiracies

Previously, Lady P P can’t remember a darn thing. And she’s completely lost any interest in fashion. Is there no justice?

The Ichabod Crane figure of Pip, a chip off the old Flip of Flip, Fop & Flimby, Solicitors at Law, said to the Prime Minister of England, “I have news.”

“Yes, I have heard the news,” the Prime Minister said, displeased that he was interrupted by this flunky from the Defense Staff’s Office. Hadn’t he told his Personal Secretary that he did not want to be interrupted? He had. What now? “Her ladyship, Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott was drowned. Now the whole damned country from the queen on down to the sewage cleaners are upset about the commoner. Why everybody cares I do not know. You’d think she was Princess Di. Well, she was not. She was an American with a lot of cash who bought herself a title. That’s all. Now go away before I kick your skinny rear all the way to Whitehall. Leave me in peace.”

“But Prime Minister …,” Pip said.

“My God, man,” the Prime Minister said and wiped his mouth with his napkin. “Did you not hear me?”

The Prime Minister had raised his voice. He seldom raised his voice. It was the sound of not raising his voice that had gotten him where he was. It was the tone and the words he spoke. All the diners in the Commons Dining Room turned to see the Prime Minister stand and raise his fist. He was fighting mad. When he went fighting mad, he was dangerous. He knew how to use his fist. His mother’s brother MacFeeney, the brawler, had taught him the fine art of fisticuffs and his fisticuffian bro had fought the great Sullivan himself.

The Ichabod Crane of a Pip looked like he was about to run away. He was no boxer. The Prime Minister would make mincemeat out of him. Before P. M. could slam Pip’s pip of a face, Sir Myles stepped in front of Pip.

P. M. halted his fist’s progress and dropped his hand to his side. He smiled. He was always glad to see Sir Myles di Fussye-Pants. The two had been friends for quite some time. They had something important in common. The same woman. Two Ems had been P. M.’s mistress for several years. And she was Sir Myles’ very popular wife. As the Queen of London Society, she knew how to throw a party, and she definitely knew how to party like it was 1899.

“Our friend has some news,” Sir Myles said.

P. M. returned to his chair, then offered Sir Myles a seat at his table. He did not offer Pip a seat. It just wasn’t done. Allowing someone of his lowly station to sit at the same table as the P.M. Especially not in public. That would have been taking his liberalism too far.

“What is the news, Myles?” P. M. asked his friend.

“I haven’t been told, Argyle,” Sir Myles said. He was one of the few allowed to call Prime Minister Mactavish by his Christian name Argyle.

P. M. scratched his bald head. He looked over at Pip, standing uncomfortably nearby.

“Well, young man?” he demanded.

“Yes, sir,” Pip said, then recognized his mentor, “Sir Myles, I have news.”

“Well, get on with it, man,” P. M. demanded some more.

“Her ladyship, Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott of Haggismarshe, is not dead.”

“What!” Both P. M. and Sir Myles stared up at Pip, their mouths dropping open when they heard the news.

“Would you repeat that?” Sir Myles said.

“Lady Wimpleseed Prissypott is not dead. This is why the Chief sent me over to interrupt your meal, Prime Minister.”

“What do you mean?” P. M. wanted to know. “Of course, she is dead. The Times has reported her death. Therefore, it must be true. The Times is never wrong.”

“I assure that The Times is incorrect, sir. They will have to offer a retraction.”

“Lower your voice, man,” Sir Myles said. “And have a seat. I am tired of seeing you standing there like some Ichabod Crane of a Flip, Pip. Sit and tell us what you know. But quietly, please.”

“With your permission, Prime Minister,” Pip said, taking his place in the seat across from the P. M. He knew where his bread was buttered and he had not been about to sit without his boss’s boss’s boss’s permission. That was no way to advance a career either in government or the law. One simply did not go against one’s betters.

“By the way, young man,” P. M. said, “By the way, who in Disraeli’s name are you?”

“I am Pip Flip, a chip off the old Flip of Flip, Fop & Flimby, Solicitors at Law. I am also a member of the Defense Staff.”

“Yes, I knew the old chip, Kip Flip, Pip,” P. M. said. “Used to be a mighty fine solicitor until he tripped over a law case. I think he defended your wife in a law suit once, did he not, Myles?”

“He must assuredly did,” Sir Myles said. “Did a damned good job of it too. Two Ems won her case and gathered more than the damages she originally asked. We had enough left over from that suit to pay for passage around the world. We’re planning on a trip next summer. A second honeymoon.”

The prime minister was ready to get down to business. He lowered his voice to a whisper and asked Flip, “So what do you know that I don’t know? What would cause The Times to retract their story? And keep your voice low please. We do not want a panic. The Times is never wrong. After all, it is The Times. You do know that?”

“Sir, I agree. The Times is never wrong,” Pip whispered. “And The Times is not wrong this time. They reported what had been reported to them on Gibraltar. So, you see it’s the second-hand smoke that always does the most harm.”

“Damn that fake news,” the P.M. spat out.

“Then she is not dead?” Sir Myles said.

“She is alive, Sir,” Pip said quietly. “One of our men saw her on the outskirts of Barcelona.”

“No?” P. M. said.

“She was in pretty bad shape when he saw her,” Pip reported. “She was dressed in a white underdress. Her hair was all caked with mud. She had no shoes on her feet.”

“Is he sure it was her?” Sir Myles intruded.

“Yes, sir. He is. The woman he saw had her ladyship’s bright red hair. And those amazing bosoms. There is no mistaking those bosoms. They are internationally famous bosoms, the best in the world today.”

“Tis true, Myles,” P. M. said. “I’ve seen those bosoms. They are some bosoms. Bosoms enough to unstiffen an Englishman’s stiff upper lip. I saw them at the wedding and I was in awe. It made me jealous of an English lord for the first and only time in my long career. There is no mistaking those bosoms. But where is she now? Does the man know?”

“He followed her,” Pip Flip continued. “She was taken in by a church. The Church of St. Teresa de Avila. She’s staying at the convent. The Sisters of St. Teresa de Avila are caring for her.”

The Prime Minister and Sir Myles breathed a sigh of relief. It was one heck of a sigh of relief that they both breathed. They were relieved.

Then they realized. Sir Myles was the first to whisper, “That means that The Times was wrong. It will have to retract. They will not retract. Because The Times is never wrong.”

“Her life is in danger?” P. M. said.

“There’s more, sir,” Pip whispered. “She has amnesia.”

The P.M. and Sir Myles leaned forward, their interest heightened by all the intrigue.

“And they are keeping her that way,” Pip said. “They have hired a quack of a doctor, a Doctor Qwackers. He has his ways to keeping her from remembering. He has done more damage to more people in the country of Spain than any other quack quack of his time. And there’s more.”

“There’s more?” Sir Myles and P. M. asked at the same time. They looked at each other. How could there be more? What more could there be?

“Of course, there’s more,” P.M. said. “There’s always more. Even when there’s no more, there’s more. Thanks to that blasted Oliver Twist.”

“Yes, sir,” Pip said to the Prime Minister. “The Church of St. Teresa de Avila in Barcelona is the headquarters of the Wah Wah League.”

“What?” both his listeners spoke at the same time again.

“It’s the headquarters of the Wah Wah League?” P. M. asked. “Could you repeat that?”

“The Church of St. Teresa de Avila is the headquarters of the Wah Wah League.”

“We heard you the first time,” P. M. said.

“You said to repeat it,” Pip said. “I was responding to your request, sir.”

“I know what I said,” P. M. said.

“Argyle,” Sir Myles said quietly, “you do know how to turn a phrase.”

“Thank you, Myles. You are very kind. So how do we go forward now.”

“That is why I am here,” Pip said. “Chief and I are the only ones who have this information. And the man on the ground, of course. Cdmr. Thomas Edward Button. He’s known within the department as Double Oh Seven Button-Button.”

“Hmmmmn,” P. M. hemmed. “Button-Button, you say?”

“Yes, sir. I do say,” Pip said, “and there’s one more thing.”

“That figures,” P. M. said. “There’s always another thing. What now?”

The Times has contacted us to have our man take care of her ladyship. The Times already has this information. Don’t know how they got it but they do.”

“It’s the leaks,” Sir Myles commented. “There’s always a trump full of leaks.”

“Don’t you mean ‘trunkful of leaks’?” P.M. asked.

“That too,” Sir Myles said.

“In these kinds of things,” Pip continued, “we are pretty thorough. But somebody on the Defense Staff has dropped his pants. I think it’s the Chief. But I am not sure. I think they’ve offered him a substantial retirement. Maybe even a Chairman of the Bored.”

“So why is the Chief,” P. M. asked, “passing this information on to me?”

“He isn’t, sir,” Pip said. “I am doing this on my own initiative.”

“My, my,” Sir Myles said. “This is one hell of a horns of a dilemma. Two Ems would love this. She loves a good puzzle. Always solving those ‘Where’s Waldo’ things.”

The Prime Minister’s wheels had started turning all this over in his mind.

“Has Chief done anything yet?” he asked Pip.

“He has contacted Button-Button to do as The Times asked.”

“Sounds like,” Sir Myles said, “whatever you choose to do, you had better do quickly. Are you going to let this Button-Button fellow go through with this?”

“Double Oh is to do nothing,” Pip said. “He’s to allow the Wah Wah League take care of the problem. Then The Times will be off the hook. The story that her ladyship is dead will be true. But there is plans on the part of the Defense Secretary to take out the Wah Wahs in their headquarters. They plan to send in Special Forces and bomb the place. When it’s over, everybody in that church and convent will be dead. Double Oh is to do something only if her ladyship escapes. He is to transport her to the Falklands and leave her to the sheep.”

“They do have some vicious woman-eating sheep in the Falklands too,” Sir Myles said. ‘So, Pip, what is in it for you? Why are you not going along with the program?”

Pip said. “I figured that if I kiss the Prime Minister’s bottom, and a mighty fine bottom it is, si–”

“Why thank you, young man,” the P.M. smiled.

“–I could advance.”

“I must say,” P. M. said, “that you are a damned good bottom kisser. Almost as good as I used to be before I had a bottom to kiss.” He was starting to take a liking to this Pip fellow. Kip Flip, the Flip he was the chip off of, had instructed his son well in the art of Machiavellian Machevellianness. “So, what are your plans, Pip?”

“The Chief wants me to go over to Spain and make sure that it’s all going according to plan. I am to stay at the consul in Barcelona. I will be under the direction of the British ambassador.”

“Our ambassador to Spain?” Sir Myles wanted to know.

“Yes,” Pip said.

“This gets more interesting as it goes along,” Sir Myles said.

“This means,” P. M. said, “that I can’t trust anyone in my own government.”

“I am afraid so, Sir,” Pip said. “It was that briefing with the Queen. His lordship, the Lord of the Gartery, reported to Lords what happened. Lords is now conspiring to put their own man in your place.”

The Times has wanted to see you sacked,” the Prime Minister’s good friend said, “for a very long time. Seems now they have the opportunity.” He turned to Pip and asked, “Who is the fool they are planning to replace Argyle with?”

“You are, sir,” Pip said to Sir Myles.

Next Week, Back to the Convent